NFC North: Eric Weems

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Aside from generating additional revenue for the league, preseason football exists to allow teams to work through their issues before games count for real in September.

While the Chicago Bears displayed a multitude of positive signs on both offense and defense in their preseason opener, the third phase, special teams, self-destructed on nearly every level imaginable -- blocked field goal attempt, muffed punt return, penalties, average punts, and a coverage breakdown that led to a Philadelphia Eagles 102-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Time is still on the Bears' side, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels a sense of urgency to turn things around in a hurry, starting with Thursday night's second preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I took away from Friday night that we didn't play very well," DeCamillis said Monday. "We had a lot of miscues. What's disappointing is practice had been going well. We felt like it was a good training camp up to [that] point.

"We have to starting finding out the guys [who] are going to be playing for us on Sundays. There's no question about that. It's still an evaluation, but I think one of the things that wasn't as good at the start of [last] year was we didn't start out great. I think they came on after the fifth game and really started playing well. We need to see the guys that are going to play on Sundays. That's our goal moving forward, especially in that third preseason game. We have to see those guys and they have to start playing together as a unit."

DeCamillis cited the windy conditions at Soldier Field last week as a possible reason why punters Tress Way (37.5 yards per punt/37.5 net average) and Pat O'Donnell (43.5 yards per punt/33.5 net average) had only average performances against Philadelphia, although both players appeared to strike the ball well during Monday's practice at Ward Field.

One encouraging aspect to take away from the Eagles' game is that long snappers Brandon Hartson and Chad Rempel were on the mark with their snaps. No decision has been made regarding which of the two the Bears will keep on the 53-man roster, but each offers something unique. Hartson is probably the better pure snapper, but Rempel is extremely athletic and seems to be capable of running downfield and covering a punt if necessary.

As for the return game, Eric Weems is in the drivers' seat, especially since speedster Chris Williams suffered a hamstring injury versus the Eagles. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall did spend time Monday at practice fielding punts during special teams drills, but don't look for Marshall to be the new special teams secret weapon.

"Brandon Marshall sometimes likes to be in drills he shouldn't be in," DeCamillis said with a smile. "That's above my pay grade."

Bears Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • While the Bears actively monitor the waiver wire and scan the list of available free-agent wide receivers in the aftermath of Marquess Wilson’s fractured clavicle, Tuesday’s practice allowed the team to try out several different receiver combinations. Minus Wilson and veteran Brandon Marshall (coaches' decision), the Bears trotted out a three-wide receiver set to begin 11-on-11 drills that featured Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Weems, a former Pro Bowl return man in Atlanta, figures to be a lock to make the team based on his familiarity with the offense and immense value on special teams, but the remaining roster spots are wide open. According to quarterback Jay Cutler: “Eric Weems has had a great camp, but so have a number of other guys. Right now it’s too early to peg anybody. We’ll just see how it plays out.” Cutler later added the Bears expect Wilson back on the field in 2014 after he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. But with no timetable set for Wilson’s return, the Bears do need to find a reliable option in the slot to bridge the gap over the first couple weeks of the regular season, at the bare minimum.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Frey suffered a right hamstring injury at practice and had to be carted back to the locker room. The Bears’ 2013 starting nickelback, Frey is facing an uphill battle to make the team with veterans Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis, plus rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller ahead of Frey on the depth chart. Frey told reporters he plans to vigorously attack the required rehabilitation program, but stressed the importance of resisting the urge to return too soon from a pulled hamstring injury, since those types of injuries tend to linger.
  • Starting right tackle Jordan Mills hurt his foot at the tail end of Tuesday’s practice. Mills stayed and watched the final drill before walking off the field under his own power. Mills suffered a foot injury during pregame warm-ups in last year’s regular-season finale versus the Green Bay Packers that required offseason surgery. The Bears did not reveal the severity of the injury, but Mills seemed to be in good spirits when he arrived at lunch later in the afternoon.
  • Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy again took first-team reps at safety.
  • Jennings (quadriceps) and guard Eben Britton (hamstring) were held out of practice, but linebacker Lance Briggs fully participated after a knee injury kept him off the field for final portion of Monday’s session. Defensive end Jared Allen was excused from another practice due to personal reasons, while running back Shaun Draughn went through an entire practice following a couple of personal days away from the team.
  • The Bears' next scheduled practice is Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Expectations are sky high for a Bears offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year in points scored (27.8 per game) and No. 5 in passing yards (267.6 per game), but the opening four days of practice have produced a mixed bag of results from a unit that is expected to return all 11 starters. Monday’s performance was no different. At certain points of the session, quarterback Jay Cutler ran the offensive scheme to perfection, firing completions to wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett that went for huge gains. On the flip side, Cutler badly underthrew Marshall on a deep route into double coverage that should’ve been intercepted by Bears defenders who were stationed in the area. Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden later picked off a deflected Cutler pass in full-team 11-on-11, Hayden’s third interception since the start of camp. There were also batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage and botched snaps from the center to the quarterback that resulted in Cutler describing the offense as “good and bad.” Cutler continued: “That is to be expected taking the time off in July. We’re getting better and better. There’s been some sloppy stuff out there. We’ve got to clean it up. I think the guys are doing a really good job of just recognizing the plays and getting lined up and knowing the concepts and knowing the checks and everything. So if we just clean up some of the little things as we go, we’ll be all right.”
  • The Bears desperately need their top three draft choices to step in and make immediate contributions on defense. First-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller looks the part and continues to receive extensive reps on the first team in base and nickel with Tim Jennings temporarily sidelined due to a sore groin. Third-round choice Will Sutton got thrown into the fire on Monday at three-technique defensive tackle as the coaching staff decided to give Jeremiah Ratliff a veteran’s day off. Sutton appeared to hold up OK versus the heightened competition. Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.
  • Fans chanted “Mega-Punt” whenever first-year punter Pat O'Donnell connected with the football on Sunday. Not to be outdone, punter Tress Way won the matchup between the two aspiring kickers on Monday. As a sixth-round draft choice, O'Donnell is considered the favorite to win the job, but Way has proved to those in the organization that he is an NFL-caliber punter. Even if Way is eventually released, he can still make it in the league. Former Bears “camp legs” have found gainful employment in the league: Spencer Lanning (Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets).
  • Most of the wideouts competing for the final roster spots have done little to distinguish themselves. The two exceptions are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Not only are Weems and Williams natural fits in the return game, they have managed to catch the football in camp. The other reserve receivers have been plagued by drops.
  • Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long (viral infection) visited doctors on Monday, but the team cannot say if Long will be back on the field when it returns to work on Wednesday. With Long out, the Bears have worked various combinations at guard, with Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente all seeing time with the starters.
  • Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore foot), receiver Terrence Toliver (toe), safety Chris Conte (PUP) and safety Craig Steltz (PUP) were all spectators on Monday.
  • The Bears are off on Tuesday. The next practice is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Even with temperatures in the low 70s, the Bears momentarily lost their cool for the second consecutive day.

Friday’s brief shoving match between wide receiver Eric Weems and cornerback Sherrick McManis lasted only a couple seconds, but Saturday morning’s dustup involved multiple players and took several members of the team to restore order.

The main combatants appeared to be defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and right tackle Jordan Mills, along with defensive end Willie Young. At one point guard Kyle Long tried to play peacemaker and separate the players, even though Long is still not practicing due to a viral infection. Multiple players from both sides then jumped in to quiet down the situation.

There were no further problems, and all the parties involved downplayed the incident after practice, as expected.

Shoving matches and minor fights are commonplace at NFL training camps, but Bears head coach Marc Trestman prefers that his players avoid engaging in that type of behavior, and for good reason.

“We know that there are times in practice where a player may lose his mind,” Trestman said. “The bottom line is when we talk about it in meetings: fighting is a disciplinary issue. We would have lost both players. If we’re practicing like it’s a game, we would have lost both players today.

“Not only that but it’s a major safety issue. The guys involved are remorseful about it. They don’t want it to happen and they know it hurts the football team. The thing you like to see is that it didn’t linger. The team got back to work and there were no other altercations. But one play can hurt a football team. That’s how we sell it to each and every guy. On one play we can lose players. And it’s a safety issue. We have to continue to move forward with that and I know we will.”
The Chicago Bears asked kick returner/receiver Eric Weems in March to take a pay cut from the $1.1 million he was scheduled to earn in 2014, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson reported, and the veteran complied Thursday, according to documents obtained by ESPN.com.

Weems
The Bears reduced Weems' $1.1 million base salary for 2014 to $730,000, and the deal still includes a $100,000 workout bonus and escalators worth up to $500,000 for receptions. The new deal reduces Weems' cap figure of $1.6 million for 2014 to $1.33 million.

Weems was expected to be released if he declined the salary reduction.

Weems joined the Bears on a three-year deal worth $4.25 million in 2012 that included a $1.5 million bonus.

But when the Bears proposed the salary reduction, it was believed the club wanted Weems' deal to be similar to the contract signed in March by receiver Domenik Hixon. Hixon signed a one-year deal worth $730,000 that included $100,000 in roster bonus provided the receiver is active on game days, and Weems' new base salary for 2014 is the same.

A seven-year veteran, Weems contributed 13 tackles on special teams last season and caught one pass for an 8-yard gain. Weems was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Weems will compete against Terrance Toliver, Josh Bellamy, Hixon and Chris Williams for a dual role as receiver and special-teams contributor.

The club also asked Earl Bennett to take his second pay cut since 2013 but the receiver declined, leading to the Bears to release him on March 18.

ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.

Bears release WR Earl Bennett

March, 18, 2014
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Chicago Bears receiver Earl Bennett had his contract terminated, the team announced.

ESPNChicago.com reported earlier Tuesday that Bennett was expected to be released after he refused to trim his salary for a second consecutive year, according to a source.

Bennett
Bennett took a pay cut in 2013 and lowered his salary by $1 million.

Bennett had a cap number of $1.35 million (after the reduction) last year, but was scheduled to count $2.45 million against the Bears' cap in 2014 and earn a total of $2.45 million (that included a $100,000 roster bonus).

Bennett finished 2013 with 32 receptions for 243 yards and four touchdowns, but he had to miss the final game of the year versus the Green Bay Packers to be with his ailing brother who tragically died in the offseason.

When healthy, Bennett was a reliable target throughout his Bears career. After not catching a single pass his rookie year (2008), Bennett had 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past five seasons in just 78 regular-season games.

Bennett is now free to sign with another team.

The Bears also have asked veteran kick returner/wide receiver Eric Weems to take a pay cut from the $1.1 million total salary he is scheduled to earn in 2014, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Weems is expected to be released if he declines the proposed salary reduction, per the source.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears have asked veteran kick returner/wide receiver Eric Weems to take a pay cut from the $1.1 million base salary he is scheduled to earn in 2014, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Weems
Weems is expected to be released if he declines the proposed salary reduction, per the source.

Weems signed a three-year deal, $4.25 million that included a $1.5 million bonus. His salary cap number for the upcoming season is $1.6 million, but the Bears would have to carry $500,000 worth of dead money if Weems is released, making the total salary cap savings $1.1 million.

It’s believed the Bears want Weems’ contract to mirror the deal Domenik Hixon signed last week. Hixon inked a one-year, $730,000 deal that included $100,000 worth of roster bonuses if Hixon is active on game days (6.25K per game active).

Weems, a seven-year NFL veteran, made 13 special teams tackles and caught one pass for eight yards last season. He made the Pro Bowl in 2010 while a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Weems is not the only wide receiver being asked to accept a salary reduction. Although it hasn’t happened yet, the Bears are expected to approach Earl Bennett about taking another pay cut after the veteran lowered his salary by $1 million in 2013.

Bennett had a cap number of $1.35 million (after the reduction) last year, but is scheduled to count $2.45 million against the Bears' cap in 2014 and earn a total of $2.45 million (that includes a $100,000 roster bonus).

The Bears could offer to allow Bennett to earn back the money in the form of incentives as the club did last year. Bennett finished 2013 with 32 receptions for 243 yards and four touchdowns, but had to miss the final game of the year versus the Green Bay Packers to be with his ailing brother who tragically passed away in the offseason.

Bennett has been a reliable target throughout his Bears' career when healthy. After not catching a single pass his rookie year of 2008, Bennett has 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns over the last five seasons in just 78 regular season games. Bennett is also a capable punt returner and could be in the mix to land the job with Devin Hester departing via free agency.
LANDOVER, MD -- Chicago Bears assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis appearance in the FedEx Field visitor’s locker room on Sunday after the Bears’ 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins said it all.

Although the Bears prohibit assistant coaches from speaking to the media following games, DeCamillis’ foul mood can likely be attributed to a controversial fourth-quarter call that went against the Bears as the club attempted a surprise onside kick.

After a Robbie Gould field goal cut the Redskins’ lead to 38-34 with 8:44 left in the game, Gould executed a perfect onside kick that was recovered by Zack Bowman at the Bears’ 46 yard line.

However, the officials ruled that Bears’ special teams ace Eric Weems was offsides on the play, which negated the Bears’ recovery and forced Gould to re-kick. With the element of surprise no longer on the Bears’ side, Gould did not attempt a second onside kick.

Television replays of the Weems penalty appeared to be inconclusive.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman explained why the team called for the onside kick at that specific juncture of the game.

“We needed a possession back,” Trestman said. “We had planned for it. It’s something we had planned for during the week. Special situation football decisions are not made at that moment. It was evident that their offense was on the field too much.”

DeCamillis later called for another high-risk special teams maneuver when he instructed Devin Hester to lateral the football across the field to Joe Anderson during the Bears’ final kickoff return of the game. Anderson gained 25 yards on the play to give the Bears’ the football at their 38 yard line with 33 seconds left on the clock. But the Bears eventually ran out of time when Josh McCown got sacked on the final play of the game.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears returned to the field to resume workouts Monday, but continued to hold out defensive tackle Henry Melton and receiver Earl Bennett as the duo works through the steps of the concussion protocol to return to the field.

Melton and Bennett attended the session inside the Walter Payton Center during the portion of practice open to the media, but it appears neither has been cleared to return to activity. Considering the starters aren’t likely to play much, if any, during the preseason finale against Cleveland on Thursday, there’s no rush for Melton and Bennett to return to the field.

“Henry is into (the) running (phase of the concussion protocol). Earl is day-to-day," coach Marc Trestman said. "I know he was with some of the medical people this morning, I haven’t checked. Henry ran today. He’s going to run tomorrow and Wednesday and pick up that running significantly. That’s where he is at this point.”

However, the Bears have already begun preparations for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8, and the week leading into that outing would seem to be the target date for Melton and Bennett to rejoin the team for workouts.

As the club’s franchise player, Melton has already solidified his status as a starter. Bennett, meanwhile, is competing with Joe Anderson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and rookie Marquess Wilson for one of the receiver spots behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Bennett hasn’t practiced with the team since suffering the concussion on Aug. 3 at Soldier Field after a hard hit from safety Chris Conte.

Melton suffered his concussion in the first game of the preseason at Carolina.

In other injury news, the team held out quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), defensive tackle (Corvey Irvin) (ankle) and cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring).

Fullback Harvey Unga (ribs), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), and long snapper Patrick Mannelly returned to the practice field Monday after missing last week’s game at Oakland.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive tackle Henry Melton and wide receiver Earl Bennett remained sidelined on Tuesday due to concussions, but both players watched practice from the sidelines for the first time since the Chicago Bears concluded the Bourbonnais portion of their training camp on Aug. 13.

However, Melton and Bennett have still not passed the NFL concussion protocol to return to action, and therefore both continue to be off-limits to the media, per league rules.

While veteran Nate Collins has elevated his game filling in for Melton at defensive tackle, the picture at the No. 3 wide receiver spot is cloudier with Bennett out. Wideouts Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and Devin Aromashodu have all been given an opportunity to run with the first and second teams in recent weeks, but quarterback Jay Cutler said on Tuesday that he has no input on which specific player would fill the void left by Bennett if his absence continues to drag on.

"They don't give me an opinion so we'll see who they throw in there," Cutler said. "We'll see who Marc (Trestman), Phil (Emery) and those guys like. Whoever is out there I trust that they can get the job done."

In other injury news, quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), fullback Harvey Unga (rib), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (rib), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle) were all held out of Tuesday's practice.

The news on Blanchard is encouraging. The second-year quarterback is expected to miss about a month, but could still have a role on the team in 2013 in some capacity. Blanchard also remains eligible for the practice squad.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Wide receiver Marquess Wilson's sole responsibility in three years at Washington State was to catch the football, a job the Chicago Bears’ 2013 seventh-round draft choice excelled at.

[+] EnlargeMarquess Wilson
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneThe Bears' Marquess Wilson, center, runs for a long gain after a catch against the Panthers on Friday.
Wilson left school as the Cougars’ all-time leader in receiving yards (3,207), while ranking second in school history in receptions (189) and touchdown catches (23). Those numbers look even more impressive when you factor in that Wilson played in only 33 career games with 27 starts before leaving the team last year after a fallout with WSU head coach Mike Leach.

Wilson flashed in the Bears’ first preseason game with an impressive 58-yard catch in Carolina.

But one area Wilson did not contribute in college was on special teams, a phase of the game that almost every NFL reserve player must embrace in order to earn a spot in the 53-man roster. Wilson said the Bears are taking a look at him on the punt (gunner) and kickoff team.

“It was different coming from college where I never played special teams, Wilson said. “But (I’ll do) anything to get on the field.”

Bears head coach Marc Trestman stressed on Sunday the importance of Wilson making a mark on special teams. Otherwise, can the Bears afford to carry him on the 53-man roster?

“I think the truth of it is and the content of it is he’s shown he can do it (special teams) and then he’ll fall off and then we’ll have to pick him up again,” Trestman said. “He’s got to understand it’s so important for him to be a special teams player for us if he becomes a fourth or a fifth wide receiver and he is competing to be a fourth or a fifth wide receiver and you can see what Joe Anderson and Eric Weems do for us. That’s part of the job for a receiver that is not one of the top three, he’s got to be an active special teams player and give us the kind of play that Joe and Eric give us on special teams at this point.

“So, he’s just starting to understand the importance. I have seen him out there and when he’s active and when he’s focused he shows that he has the ability to do it. He’s a young player, he’s probably never done it before but he’s got to recognize how important it is because of where he would be on the roster presently to make special teams a priority as all the guys who are looking for roster spots who are not starters. We talk about that every day and I think it’s become clearer to him now and I think we’re going to see more because he’s shown flashes of it in practice.”

(Read full post)

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- In a practice filled with defensive highlights, defensive end Shea McClellin authored the play of the day on Tuesday when he sniffed out a screen pass and intercepted a hard-thrown ball from quarterback Jay Cutler in the flat.

McClellin initially rushed up field on the play from his end spot before anticipating the throw by Cutler and coming down with a difficult catch. If the sequence had occurred in a real game, McClellin would have scored an easy defensive touchdown.

[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireShea McClellin said he feels faster, and it showed on a nice play Tuesday.
"I was just doing my job and reading my keys," McClellin said. "The ball was right there so I picked it off. I was just doing my job. I feel faster out there than I did in the spring after I lost eight pounds. I still feel like I get a little heavier, but I'll work on that after camp.

McClellin has been in a groove the last week, routinely winning one-on-one battles with offensive lineman in individual and team drills. The likely plan for the former first-round pick is to move him around the defensive front, lining him up in a two-point or three-point stance depending on the defensive call or the matchup, while sometimes requiring that he cover a tight end or guard the flat on passing downs.

The Bears asked McClellin to do some of that last year as a rookie, but expect to see more of it in 2013. That's because McClellin should receive a significant boost in play-time in the Bears' three-man starting defensive end rotation that also includes Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton.

On the topic of defensive lineman moving around, the Bears had several lineman stand up in a two-point stance and either rush the quarterback or run with a tight end in coverage, the most notable being Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton.


  • As the wide receiver bubble starts to take shape, Joe Anderson is doing whatever he can to earn a spot on the Bears' final 53-man roster. A standout on special teams in the final three regular-season games of 2012, Anderson has made several impressive catches throughout camp.

    On Tuesday, he beat safety Major Wright down the deep middle of the field and hauled in a touchdown bomb from Cutler.

    "It was just a beautiful pass by Cut, man," Anderson said. "The safety sat and I just ran by him."

    Anderson has the necessary physical skills (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), but admits that he still needs to work on the mental aspect of his game. Anderson was an undrafted rookie free agent last summer out of Texas Southern.

    "I'm just as strong as Brandon Marshall or anyone else that is out here," Anderson said. "So it's not the physical part, it's more mental, like learning the fundamentals of the game. Just the little things that can get you open in tight coverages, and that starts in the film room, getting in your playbook and taking good notes in the meeting room. Then you need to come out on the field and apply it all."

    It appears to be an open competition at wide receiver after the top three on the depth chart. Wideouts Anderson, Eric Weems, Devin Aromashodu, Terrence Toliver, Marquess Wilson, Josh Lenz, Marcus Rucker, Britton Golden and Jerrell Jackson all figure to get an extended look in the upcoming preseason games.

    Wilson, the Bears seventh-round draft choice, is intriguing because although his 6-foot-4, 184 pound frame may not be ready to contribute much for the Bears on offense or special teams this season, would he clear waivers if the team cut him with the intent of bringing him back on the practice squad? The last thing the Bears want to do is completely cut ties with a 20-year old receiver, who if he stayed in school and continued producing at the same rate he had over his first three years at Washington State, would've been a first-round or second-round pick in 2014.


  • Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion symptoms), nickel back Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and Peppers (excused) were all sidelined on Tuesday.

    Left tackle Jermon Bushrod participated in just individual drills for the second consecutive practice as he eases back from a right calf strain.

    Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (hip) had full participation.


  • Team matriarch Virginia McCaskey watched the workout and later chatted with Bears general manager Phil Emery.
  • Football Outsiders, a statistics-based analysis service, has been producing division-by-division Insider files on remaining team needs. You'll need a subscription to read the entire NFC North post Insider, but below I've taken a few excerpts and written a few things about them.

    Chicago Bears
    Football Outsiders' issue: Receiver
    Football Outsiders comment: "When we pointed to wide receiver as a major flaw for the current Bears early in the offseason, it was to the consternation of a lot of Bears fans who saw the offensive line as the larger issue. The problem is that Jay Cutler is a see-it, throw-it passer. He's still a solid quarterback, but he's never thrown receivers open on a consistent basis. That amplifies the Bears' receiving problems, and while scheming can create the occasional big play for Devin Hester, Eric Weems, or Earl Bennett, they can't defeat man coverage often enough to benefit Cutler."
    Seifert comment: I'm not on board with describing Cutler as a "see-it, throw-it" passer. If anything, his arm strength and velocity give him too much confidence when it comes to throwing receivers open. (The phrase refers to putting the ball in a place that an otherwise covered receiver can catch it). I wouldn't argue that Bears' need for additional depth behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Bennett, but it's not because of any passing limitation on Cutler's part. There's just not much else behind them, especially as long as Hester works solely with special teams.

    Detroit Lions
    Football Outsiders' issue: Offensive line
    Football Outsiders comment: "The strength of this line in recent seasons has been pass blocking, as Detroit's offense has finished in the top 10 in adjusted sack rate for the past three seasons, but that is likely to take a hit from this offseason's turnover."
    Seifert comment: On the other hand, the Lions' new offensive line might be a better run-blocking group. That aspect has taken a back seat in recent years. I do think, however, that it's worth being concerned about putting your franchise quarterback behind a line with at least three first-time starters.

    Green Bay Packers
    Football Outsiders' issue: Offensive line
    Football Outsiders comment: "[M]uch like the Lions, the Packers are putting their faith in their quarterback to evade the pass rush this season. Unlike the Lions, the Packers don't have a lot of personnel turnover in this unit, but, also unlike the Lions, they finished second-to-last in adjusted sack rate last season."
    Seifert comment: There would be those who suggest that flipping the left and right sides of your line is football version of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But every quarterback needs more help from their blind-side pass blockers. If you're going to have a strength and a weakness, it makes sense to shore up the left side first.

    Minnesota Vikings
    Football Outsiders' issue: Middle linebacker
    Football Outsiders comment: "Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway can take care of things in Leslie Frazier's nickel fronts, but the base 4-3 is lacking a thumper after Jasper Brinkley's departure in free agency. (Of course, given Brinkley's broken-tackle rate, they probably were lacking one even if he had come back)."
    Seifert comment: The Vikings clearly fell short in their attempts to find a long-term solution at this position during the offseason. They will give Henderson a chance to grow into it during organized team activities, but he was not their first choice. This position could well be atop their list of 2014 needs as well.

    Chicago Bears cut-down analysis

    August, 31, 2012
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    Most significant move: The most significant move of the final cut-down, and the entire offseason, is how aggressive the Bears were in trying to upgrade special teams. In free agency, they signed Eric Weems to help Devin Hester with returns. They kept undrafted safety Jeremy Jones to help on special teams, then traded fullback Tyler Clutts to Houston to acquire cornerback Sherrick McManis. They also kept linebacker Patrick Trahan to help out on special teams. Figuring the team will have a better offense, the Bears wanted to shore up special teams to keep their offense in good field position.

    Onward and upward: With only three draft choices making the 53-man roster -- third-round pick Brandon Hardin ended up on injured reserve -- the Bears need to see if they can slide released draft choices Isaiah Frey (sixth round) or Greg McCoy (seventh round) to the practice squad. The Bears may only keep one on the practice squad because both are cornerbacks. They also hope to get undrafted tackle James Brown through waivers to get him on the practice squad. The Bears kept the predicted eight offensive linemen on the active roster, so they need a tackle (Brown, A.J. Greene or Cory Brandon) and an inside prospect to fill out the practice squad.

    What’s next: The Bears aren’t standing pat. They ended up adding 16 new players to the roster and are in the process of signing defensive tackle Amobi Okoye as a backup. It wouldn’t be surprising if they look at Antonio Dixon, a defensive tackle released by the Philadelphia Eagles. A decision still has to be made on a punter. Adam Podlesh suffered a hip flexor injury, so the Bears kept undrafted punter Ryan Quigley on the active roster. It’s not out of the question for them to look for another punter who was released.
    Reviewing Saturday's action at Soldier Field:

    Chicago Bears 33, Washington Redskins 31

    Preseason record: 1-1

    Of interest: On an overall positive night for the Bears, three players encountered injuries worth monitoring. Punter Adam Podlesh suffered a hip flexor while trying to catch Redskins returner Brian Banks and will have an MRI on Sunday. Safety Chris Conte left the stadium with his right arm in a sling after suffering a shoulder injury, and rookie safety Brandon Hardin was carted off the field because of an apparent neck injury. Hardin was able to move his arms and legs and never lost consciousness. … Quarterback Jay Cutler's first action was productive. He completed four of his first five passes, including a 41-yarder to receiver Brandon Marshall on their first live play together in five years. … Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery continues to suggest he'll be ready to contribute right away, turning a throw over the middle from Jason Campbell into a 34-yard gain and catching a team-high three passes. … Michael Bush's pair of red-zone touchdowns further strengthened the idea that he will be the Bears' red zone and short-yardage back. … Defensive end Israel Idonije had 2.5 sacks, including a forced fumble against the Redskins' Robert Griffin III. … It was a wild night on special teams. The Bears gave up a 91-yard scoring return to Banks, but Lorenzo Booker had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Eric Weems also had a 48-yard return. Place-kicker Robbie Gould hit a 57-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining to account for the winning margin.

    Local coverage: Podlesh thinks he'll be ready for the start of the season, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. … Coach Lovie Smith didn't think that Conte's injury was too serious, and the Bears are crossing their fingers on Hardin. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune has more. … The Bears can live with how their offensive line played Saturday night, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. … It appears Jeffery has earned the trust of the Bears' quarterbacks, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. … Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com: "This is a different Jay Cutler, with a different offensive coordinator and a different Bears team around him. ... Cutler and his new receivers showed the first glimpse of a passing offense that will be able to stand up to the better defensive backs while finally taking its place in a new NFL that isn't all that new anymore." … The Bears took a hard look not only at left tackle, between J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams, but also at left guard between Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.

    Up next: Friday at New York Giants

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